Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson told Oconee County Democrats on Thursday night that they didn’t have to flip Oconee County for the party to be able to beat incumbent Republican David Perdue in the U.S. Senate race in November.
All they need to do is shave three or four percent off the county margin from Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams in 2018, Tomlinson said.
If the party continues to make the kind of gains it made in 2018, when Kemp beat Abrams by only 54,723 votes statewide, Tomlinson said, small changes in counties like Oconee will be sufficient for victory.
An enthusiastic crowd of 70 turned out at the new Bogart Library Auditorium to hear Tomlinson speak.
Tomlinson made no mention of the other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Perdue. Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry is an announced candidate, but others have expressed interest, including Cobb County businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico.
At the end of the meeting on Thursday, Marisue Hilliard, who ran unsuccessfully last year in the 46th Senate District that includes Oconee County, announced that she will not be running in 2020 and transferred her remaining campaign funds to Tomlinson.
Mokah-Jasmine Johnson, an Athens teacher, has announced she is considering running for the House District 117 seat currently held by Republican Houston Gaines. Three of Oconee County’s precincts are in the 117th.
Key Theme Of Presentation
Tomlinson spoke for more than an hour and 10 minutes to the packed auditorium at the Bogart Library.
|Tomlinson: Democrats Believe In Good Government|
Throughout her comments, Tomlinson offered a strong defense of government, calling on her experiences as a two-term mayor of Columbus. She stepped down as mayor in January.
“Democrats believe in good government,” Tomlinson said. “Democrats believe in creating a framework in which we live our most prosperous life. Democrats believe that the government is us. The government is not the enemy.”
“Let me tell you, folks, the United States of America is a government,” Tomlinson continued. “It’s our government.
“And when we pledge to the flag, we can’t love the flag and hate the government it stands for. We can’t love the men and women serving in our military and hate the government they’re fighting, dying and sacrificing for.”
Tomlinson said that Republicans have been saying that “our government is the enemy, when it’s us and it’s a tool for our solutions to the challenges that this nation has, that our community has. And that’s the difference in this election.”
Change In Georgia
Tomlinson said “There was a seismic shift in Georgia after 2016.”
She said Hillary Clinton lost Georgia by only five points. (Donald Trump received 51.1 percent of the vote, to Clinton’s 45.9 percent, or a 5.2 percent difference.)
“We were all deeply disturbed by the new presidential leadership that we had,” Tomlinson said, “and I think that we missed a nugget of interesting information about an evolution in Georgia politics.
“But what happened after that as a reaction to Donald Trump was frankly even more interesting,” Tomlinson said. “People started getting engaged in ways they had never been before.”
Groups that used to book clubs converted themselves to be “civic engagement clubs,” Tomlinson said.
This evolution took place all over the state, Tomlinson said, and in 2018 Stacey Abrams “came within 54,000 votes of actually being governor of the state of Georgia.”
The difference between Gov. Brian Kemp’s vote (50.2 percent) and Abrams’ vote (48.8 percent) was 1.4 percent. (Tomlinson misstated the Kemp vs. Abrams gap as 1.5 percent. The actual vote difference was 54,723.)
This change from a 5.2 percent difference to a 1.4 percent difference happened “in just two years,” Tomlinson noted.
“The young man in the corner here is a tracker with the National Republican Senatorial Committee,” Tomlinson told the crowd, pointing to a person in the right, rear or the room.
|Tracker Following Tomlinson|
“And he follows us around,” she said. “We appreciate him being here because it shows they are interested, because they know they are in trouble in this state.
“Fifteen months out, they wouldn’t have a tracker following around a Democratic candidate,” she said. “But he’s been with us since the beginning of the campaign.
“They even bought him a tripod,’ she continued. “That’s pretty nice. I mean it keeps kind of getting better and better. And so they are investing, investing in this.”
Tomlinson said that people in Georgia are upset because Hurricane Michael relief for Georgia’s farmers was 7 ½ months late “because they are up there in Washington, D.C., bickering about weird things.
“They think that they can declare tariff wars on our farmers and expect those folks to vote for them,” she said.
What Oconee Democrats Must Do
Tomlinson told her audience that “We don’t have to flip Oconee County to win.
“We don’t have to flip and turn blue Habersham County to win,” Tomlinson added. She said she had been in Habersham County in northeast Georgia before coming to Oconee.
Kemp, who is from Athens, received 69.8 percent of the vote in Oconee County in 2016.
“We just need you guys to shave three or four percent off the margins in those counties,” Tomlinson said. (Kemp got 83.5 percent of the vote in Habersham County.)
Because she is from south Georgia, Tomlinson said, she believes she will cut in Perdue’s margins in that part of the state. Perdue is from Sea Island on the Georgia Coast.
“If you go red by 65 percent this time,” she said, “you just get in your car and start heading to Columbus, Georgia, to join us in our victory party, because it is done.”
Tomlinson told those present to take a decal and put it on the back window of the car.
“Give cover to other people who think they are the only Democrat in this county,” she said.
Tomlinson said that she wants to improve the Affordable Care Act “and supply universal health care for folks.”
|Tomlinson: Legislatures Should Not Practice Medicine|
She said she wants to “Amend the voting rights act to apply to all 50 states and bring back preclearance.”
Voter suppression is not just a problem in the south, she said.
“We can have reasonable gun legislation,” Tomlinson said, including background checks.
“It blows my mind, that Republicans that are purportedly the party of the small government,” Tomlinson said, “should be in the business of controlling the bodily autonomy of women.”
“These state legislatures need to get out of the business of practicing medicine without a license,” she added.
The video below is of the entire meeting of the Oconee County Democrats.
Tomlinson began speaking at 4:20 in the video.
Tomlinson took questions at the end of her comments and stopped speaking at 1:13:31.
Hilliard then came forward and announced that she was not going to run again for office and that she was transferring the balance of her campaign funds to Tomlinson.
Hilliard told me the money was just less than $2,000.
Her most recent campaign finance filing, for June 30, 2019, showed she had a balance of $2,096 in her account.
In addition to Tomlinson, Amico and Terry, Federal Election Commission fillings list Elaine Whigman Williams, Marckeith Dejesus, and Akhenaten Hotep Amun as candidates or possible candidates for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat.
The primary is May 19.